Lightroom Videos

Video – Where to store your photos in LR?

Earlier today I got a call from a friend of mine. He’s a seasoned photographer that works for Nikon and he’s been in this business longer then I’ve been alive. He said to me: “Matt (since that’s my name)… where in the heck does Lightroom put the photos that I import and where should I be putting them?”. It hit me that if he has this question then what is everyone else out there thinking, right? Also, I must have received that question about 20 times last week during the breaks at Scott Kelby’s Lightroom Live tour. So this week’s video is dedicated to answer just that question (and a couple more). Where does LR store your photos? Where should you store your photos when importing them into LR? And finally, how to get to those photos and find out where they are stored if you forget where you put them way back when you started using Lightroom.

Click here to watch the video. (10 Mb)



  1. Anthony T. 2 July, 2012 at 01:45 Reply

    Great video Matt! It was really informative but the only thing is that it left me with two questions:

    1.) I have a hard drive with me at my apartment near school, but often times I edit photos when I go home for the weekends and I end up leaving my hard drive at my apartment. Does this mean that I can only edit photos when I have my hard drive with me if I decide to develop these photos? The hard drive space on my laptop is limited so the more space I can make the better.

    2.) Does any change made to a .DNG file in lightroom affect the original file as well?

    Thank you very much for your time! 🙂

  2. James Freund 11 February, 2010 at 17:37 Reply

    I am just about ready to get Aperture. I am a member of NAPP, I’ve read ( looked at ) your book, Scott’s book and another guy who writes for “Dummies” and I still can’t get the hang of LR2. Now the program takes fore ever to load from a card and actually has the nerve to reject photos from the same card taken the same day. Can you give me some idea where I can go to fix the slow thing?

  3. Reg Gray 29 January, 2008 at 18:40 Reply

    I just can not get this video to work – & I really would VERY much like to get educated on this topic. I have Windows Media Player and Quick Time on my hard drive, All I get is indecipherable symbols – most gratefull for any help.


  4. bert housley 14 January, 2008 at 12:37 Reply

    I have just finished watching your”putphotos” video, thank you lots. If an 82 years old like me can understand it you are a genius. There is one question I need the answer to, sorry if it sounds stupid:

    When you have imported your photos (in my case NEF RAW Files) and copied them to your photos location/organize/sub folder. Do you then in Lightroom Library add any flags or stars or other means of identifying them in a Lightroom folder, prior to going into Develop mode?. It may be that I have misunderstood something and that pictures do not remain in the Lightroom Library permanently.

    Your help would be appreciated.

    Bert Housley

  5. bert housley 9 January, 2008 at 18:14 Reply

    I live in Yorkshire England and am 82 years old. I bought Lightroom a few months ago and would be greatly interested in watching your video tutorials. I downloaded “Where to store your images in Lightroom” but do not know how to watch it. My computer cannot open it. I am pretty ignorant regarding these things and would greatly appreciate any help you can offer

    Thank you

    Bert Housley

  6. Eric 26 December, 2007 at 09:13 Reply

    @ Bill

    In the Library module, select the source Folder on the left-hand panel, which will display all images in that folder on the Grid. Then drag the thumbnails from the Grid to the new destination Folder(s). This will move the actual file on disk and Lightroom will update its internal database to reflect the new file location.

    One suggestion (which may not apply to what you’re doing). I strongly recommend using keyword tags to sort photos and not physical directories. Keywords especially become useful when a particular photo could be placed in more than one directory. I have a single dumping ground, broken up by date (makes importing directly from a CF card easy), and tag everything as I import the new photos.

  7. Bill 21 December, 2007 at 13:34 Reply

    I would like to move some of my imported photos into a different folder and delete the original folder I imported into.

    How do I do that and keep my Library pointing to those photos in the new folder?

    Many thanks

  8. Eric 8 December, 2007 at 11:32 Reply


    I stumbled over your site a week or so ago. Great site. Keep up the good work.

    I have a question related to importing that maybe Matt vd Donk eluded to above. I shoot in the RAW + JPEG mode, and when Lightroom imports these, obviously only one thumbnail is shown in the Grid view (and mousing over the thumbnail will show an extension of (“RAW + JPEG”). When I go to the Develop module, it is not clear as to which file is being used as the base image that is being edited. I guess I was surprised to see that the tonal curve already had adjustments applied to it without any editing done in Lightroom, so I have a slight suspicion that some of the JPEG data is being used.



  9. sjogro 5 December, 2007 at 19:00 Reply

    hi matt,
    i have a problem that’s kind of related, maybe you know more…
    after reinstalling my OS and Lightroom i accidentally forgot to change the setting of where files are being copied to.
    so my library got messed up with files from various folders that i deleted because i assumed the image files had been copied to the archive location i used in my previous installation.
    now i lost a few folders of photo’s, yet i do get fullsize previewing of these ‘missing photo’s’ in Lightroom.
    is there anyway to write this preview image data that is stored within the lightroom catalog back to jpeg files?
    the files i imported were jpegs to begin with, pictures taken with a mobile phone (and of low resolution, but memoriable pictures of a meeting with a friend that i don’t want to lose!)… thanks a lot.

  10. Matt vd Donk 5 December, 2007 at 07:14 Reply

    Hello Matt,

    Thank you foral the great tutors I’m using LR and CS3 the whole day now. Can you explain why a RAW picture looks so different in LR compared with Canon Zoombowser EX? I have to do much more in LR than in zoombrowser ex.

    Another point, I want to use the best colorspace which is possible. When I want to finetune a picture in CS3 what colorspace do I choose in LR and in CS3? I think AdobeRGB but I’ve read you say ProPhotoRGB.

    I hope you can tell me more about this.

  11. Brian 15 November, 2007 at 12:22 Reply

    Sean said:
    “I don’t understand why you would have lightroom move the files at all? Why not leave them in their original location. ”

    Because I download them to a local drive of limited size, develop them in LR, and then want to move them to an external HD to free up space on the local drive. Or, I may have moved files to an external drive previously, decide I want to work on them (e.g. move/copy to C Drive) and then move them back to the external drive. Basically the local drive is only used for downloading and developing, so the source file may have to move to/from the external drive as needed.

  12. Sean Phillips 13 November, 2007 at 16:46 Reply

    I don’t understand why you would have lightroom move the files at all? Why not leave them in their original location. I guess I can understand it if you are importing directly from a memory card, but in your video you already had them on the hard drive…

  13. Rob L 13 November, 2007 at 01:38 Reply

    Firstly I want to thank you for all the help with Lightroom. Time after time I’ve started banging my head against the wall when suddenly I remember “killer tips” and most likely, you’ve got the answer I need. Secondly, I have question about how Lightroom names the backup folders. I store my photos on external drives and would like the main folder tree to be same as the backup folder tree. Lightroom adds verbiage to the folder name like “saved on…” Is there a way to have the backup folder named the same as the primary? I’ve posted this question to Adobe forums with no luck so I hope you can help.

    Thank You
    Rob L

  14. Jane 12 November, 2007 at 10:25 Reply

    Hi – I can’t seem to view the videos on your site – i just get a page of non-standard text characters. Please help as I really want to watch this and other videos. Thanks. Jane

  15. William Snyder 11 November, 2007 at 11:41 Reply

    Great site, keep up the good work. I actually have a question for you or anyone else that might know. When you import photos and back them up to a second location does lightroom delete the photo from both locations when you do a delete from disk?

  16. Tony 11 November, 2007 at 04:56 Reply

    Hi Brian

    If you want to import photos back into Lightroom for further work from a DVD, CD etc – place them back in the same (empty) folder which they were once in. i.e. Don’t delete the empty folder – leave it as a placement marker for LR to refer to for future use.
    If folders are on a disconnected external hard drive, when you reconnect it, LR automatically knows where to go to look for folders.

  17. David Josué 9 November, 2007 at 21:59 Reply

    thanks to all for your help!

    Bjoernar: I’m doing the sidecar stuff, working greal, tanks!, I’m searching for the catalog/client idea, If i find it I will post the link in case someone else is interested

    Kent Norton: Thanks for your valuable info, let me check more on the DNG format, I was esceptical because I couldn’t open it on Bridge, and I used to work a lot on Mac’s double space compresor back in 1999 and now on OsX world I can recover some info, too sad!

    Thanks for your sharing!

  18. Jack Pferdner 9 November, 2007 at 12:14 Reply

    I, too, have come to check out your site almost every day. I appreciate all the work you do. One comment and one questions:

    When I click on the video link I will often get an unrecognizable error message because the file extension says it is “.m4v”. This does not always happen. So, I am forced to right-click on the link and save the file to my desktop with an “.mp4” extension. Then it lets me open the video. Do you know why this happens? Does it happen to anyone else?

    Also, unrelated to this video, but a question. Regarding Print module formatting – is it possible to format for 3 4×6 pictures to print on one 8.5×11 paper? It would require two rows with one column on one row and two on the second. It doesn’t seem possible, but would be handy to print 3 4×6 prints on one sheet.

    Oh, one other question. When using the presets you provided for vignetting it does not work when you have cropped part of the picture. The effect is applied to the whole image and not just to the cropped portion. Is there a way around this short of exporting the crop and bringing it back to LR?

    Thanks again!

  19. Kent Norton 9 November, 2007 at 07:51 Reply

    @ David Josué
    Have you thought about using LR to convert your camera manufacturers RAW (NEF in your case) file to Adobe’s DNG format? The beauty of the DNG format is that it’s still a RAW format with all of the wonderful advantages that go along with that, but it also:
    1. Has some lossless compression which makes each file approx. 20% smaller than the NEF file (in my experience)
    2. Supports writing the metadata directly into the DNG file (like JPG) rather than needing an *.xmp “sidecar” file.

    By importing all of your files from the camera as DNG (LR has an option to import and convert!) you’ll never have to worry about metadata again! Read about it at

    Best wishes.

  20. Bjoernar 9 November, 2007 at 07:11 Reply

    Thanks for a great site.
    The tips and videos really helps in using LR to it’s full capacities.

    @ David Josué
    1. Under “File->Catalog settings” you can choose to write changes to XMP (sidecar) file automaticly. I think that will do the trick for you.

    2. Perhaps you should consider using multiple catalogs. Like one for every client or project. That way you can backup that catalog with the images and XMP sidecars. I think Matt has a video on this. Can’t remember though.

    Just a thought.

  21. Jason 8 November, 2007 at 22:25 Reply

    Awesome! Glad to see that comments are availabel now too!
    I have a question, though? Currently, I have my Lightroom library on my laptop, but due to size, I would like to move it all to a external hard-drive. Is this possible?

  22. Phil Dixon 8 November, 2007 at 21:29 Reply

    Great video. Just looked at it third time. Now beginning to understand how/where to import. Thanks very much, and keep them coming.

  23. David Josué 8 November, 2007 at 21:24 Reply

    I process like 20 gigs a week in my studio, so I have to backup to DVD finished works in a monthly basis, I like to backup the projects alone, How can I do this If I use Lightroom, I mean, can I backup the info of the levels, crops ans stuff I did for certain “folder” or “project” of photos.

    I’m not sure if I make myself clear, but in bridge (wich I hate because it just screws my RAW nikon D200 settings and makes my photos look awfull) i could set the cahce to be writen in a side xmp file of each photo, so if I burn it to a DVD and later restore the shooting, I could keep my stars, colors and Digital Development of each file!

    Thanks for reading my mess, LOL.

  24. Paul Winberg 8 November, 2007 at 17:31 Reply

    I was unable to run the video. When I click on the link and try to run it, I get a screen of symbols. If I save the file to disk it carries an .htm extension and gives me the same screen of symbols when I open it.

    What am I missing?

  25. Brian 8 November, 2007 at 17:04 Reply

    Similar question as to file management:
    Download files to local drive;
    Import to LR
    Output, etc.
    Then want to move them to external drive and free up local space.
    How to move them within LR so they stay in sync with the catalog?
    If moved with external tools (Explorer or other tools) how to resync the catalog without re-importing.

    Sounds like a Part 2 to this video!!

  26. jeff 8 November, 2007 at 16:32 Reply

    For those of use who in the past might not have been as careful in where we imported to…. how can we go about moving photos to a new location without confusing LR?

  27. Jack Reznicki 8 November, 2007 at 15:48 Reply

    Hey Matt,

    Hate the site. I now have to check it every day for all the great stuff. Where did my life go?

    I run through a lot of gigs of files, from jobs and personal work. I’ve been using a separate SATA drive system from a company called WiebeTech, that my pro supplier, FotoCare recommended.
    I buy 250 to 500gb SATA drives, now mostly 500gb. They’re much cheaper and more reliable than the enclosed drives I used to use. I now use Seagate drives and will look at Western Digital that are getting great reviews. And as a SATA drive they are really fast. I can swap them in and out. I use a 2 bay dive set at RAID 1 to back everything as I write it. I also use a 5 bay JBOD (just a bunch of drives) enclosure to read a lot of images.
    I keep the originals in folders and the LR library can “travel” on removable pocket drives. Sometimes I’ll take one of the folder of images copied on the pocket drive so I can develop any I need. If the LR library can’t “find” the original folder, because of the moving around, I click on the “?” in the corner of the first image and then locate that drive with the image file. LR them figures out all the other images in that library. Very easy. Very cool.

    If you want I can pop into the NAPP studio in January and explain more, when PPA has it’s ImagingUSA Convention ( in Tampa on Jan 6 to 8 (Cheap plug ;-> )

    Keep up the great blog. Thanks for the feedback feature.


  28. Brent Carvalho 8 November, 2007 at 14:40 Reply

    Hi, I just wanted to say how much I like your site and all the work you do to put it together. This is by far the place that I have learned the most about Lightroom. Thanks for all your tips and trainings, please keep them coming!


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